In what is being described as the first such effort of its kind, two major Jewish and Muslim groups will launch “serious education programs” in the United States and Canada aimed at bridging a divide formed from centuries of animosity over land, politics and religion.

“When we are killing each other in the name of God, sensible religious people have an obligation to do something about it,” Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said yesterday to about 5,000 Reform Jews gathered at the San Diego Convention Center for the group’s biennial conference.

Yoffie said synagogues in his group will engage in dialogues with mosques that are part of the Islamic Society of North America. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society, is expected to address the gathering this morning and add her stamp of approval.

Mohammad Elsanousi, communications director for the Islamic Society, said the goal is for the two communities to trust each other more. The Reform movement is the largest and most liberal of the three main branches of Judaism in North America, with more than 900 congregations. The Islamic Society, regarded as a moderate voice, covers more than 300 mosques and is the largest Muslim umbrella group in the United States and Canada.

The joint dialogues will be guided by a curriculum developed by the two groups. There will be 10 test sites in the United States; Los Angeles is the only one in California.

However, Yoffie urged synagogues not to wait for the test dialogues but instead to contact the Union for Reform Judaism, get the program materials and connect with a local mosque.


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